Djokovic off to a flier in Australian history bid
Top seed Novak Djokovic began his quest for an historic third successive Australian Open title on Monday with a first-round victory over Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu.
World No. 1 Djokovic is looking to become the first man in the post-1968 Open era to win the Melbourne grand slam three times in a row.
The Serb, a five-time grand slam winner, was playing his first match of 2013 and he broke 60th-ranked Mathieu four times to progress in one hour and 42 minutes.
"It was a good performance for a first round," the 25-year-old Djokovic told the ATP World Tour's official website. "I felt I was in control of the match in the opening two sets. It was tough to break [in the third set].
McEnroe: Sean Penn would play me in film "But in the end, that 11th game, I made some good shots, good points, managed to go through in straight sets."
A runner-up in two of the last three grand slams, Djokovic is up against U.S. hopeful Ryan Harrison in the second round after the rising star battled past Colombia's Santiago Giraldo.
Harrison, who earned his first ever win over a player ranked inside the top 15 at the recent Sydney International warm-up event, is relishing his meeting with the world's leading player: "He has a big serve which he likes to use and a big forehand.
"I've played him a few times before on different surfaces. I know what it takes to win that match."
Spain's David Ferrer, his country's highest-seeded male in the absence of 11-time grand slam champion Rafael Nadal, breezed past Olivier Rochus of Belgium in straight sets.
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His next opponent with be American Tim Smyczek, who beat big-serving Croat Ivo Karlovic 6-4 7-6 (7-5) 7-5.
Fifth seed Tomas Berdych, who has reached the quarterfinals of the Melbourne grand slam in each of the last two years, got his 2013 challenge off to a strong start with a 6-3 7-5 6-3 defeat of American Michael Russell.
Russell's compatriot Brian Baker enjoyed a more successful opening day, reaching the second round of the Australian Open for the first time in his career, beating Florida-based Russian Alex Bogomolov Jr. 7-6 (7-4) 6-3 6-7 (0-7) 3-6 6-2.
Baker caught the attention of the world's media with his run to the second round of the French Open last year after almost a decade spent battling injury.
The home crowd were left disappointed when eighth seed Janko Tipsarevic recorded a battling three-set win over former world No. 1 and two-time grand slam champion Lleyton Hewitt.
The highest-ranked woman in action on day one was second seed Maria Sharapova, who destroyed Russian compatriot Olga Puchkova 6-0 6-0 -- known as a "double bagel" in just 55 minutes.
Four-time grand slam champion Sharapova, an Australian Open winner in 2008, could face U.S. former world No. 1 Venus Williams in the third round.
The American, seeded 25th, got her campaign underway with an equally comfortable win, beating Kazakhstan's Galina Voskoboeva 6-1 6-0.
"First of all we still have to get to that point, and then we can discuss it further," Sharapova told the WTA Tour's website when asked about a possible meeting with Williams.
"There's no doubt she's a champion, and an experienced one at that -- and no matter where she's ranked or what level she's at, she's a tough opponent."
The Rod Laver Arena crowd were cheered by Australia's Samantha Stosur as the 2011 U.S. Open champion beat Taiwan's Kai-Chen Chang 7-6 (7-3) 6-3.
"I desperately wanted to win out there today," said eighth seed and 2006 fdoubles finalist Stosur. "I didn't necessarily feel it more than first rounds in other grand slams, but I feel relieved and it's nice to finally get through that first round.
"From here, hopefully I can loosen up a little bit and keep playing better and better this tournament."
Fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska has started the year in fine fashion, winning two titles and the Pole, who is yet to advance beyond the last eight in Melbourne, had little difficulty in getting pastAustralian wildcard Bojana Bobusic 7-5 6-0.
No. 6 Li Na, who became Asia's first grand slam singles champion at Roland Garros at the French Open, in 2011, lost to Radwanska in the final of the Sydney International last week, but the Chinese star opened up in Melbourne with a 6-1 6-3 triumph against Sesil Karatantcheva of Kazakhstan.